Seven Ways to Build Your Brand
From the moment you enter the workforce, every action and decision helps establish your personal brand. For entrepreneurs, building a viable business involves building a brand that customers, investors and other stakeholders understand, trust and value.
Long-term brand building requires a careful combination of strategic intention paired with reliable consistency. Senior Vice President, Corporate Affairs, for GSK Consumer Healthcare, Dana Bolden, has helped craft and lead some of the world’s most recognized brands, including Philip Morris, The Coca-Cola Company and the agriculture division of DowDuPont. As a speaker at the fourth annual Monica Motivates Global Supplier Diversity Conference (GSDC), he shared these suggestions to demystify the process and guide you in creating an effective brand strategy.
Ground rules for building and effectively communicating your brand.
- Be clear on what you need to succeed. Early in your career or business founding, it can be tempting to chase any number of common metrics. A better approach is to think critically about what levers you need to activate to drive your best outcomes. Should you focus on growing customer referrals? New business? Repeat business? Total revenue? An employee base that can deliver? When you know what success looks like, you can make strategic choices that better align with creating it.
- Say no before you say yes. “It’s tempting early on, when you’re so focused on growth, to say yes to every opportunity that comes along because it can mean immediate revenue,” Bolden cautioned. “But you need to be selective about the space you want to occupy and stay focused on opportunities within that space so that you are not tempted to invest your time or money in areas that are not core to your business.”
“One of the biggest mistakes I see people make is trying to be all things to all people,” he added. “It’s impossible to have shared values with everyone, so you need to understand who you serve and who you want to partner with. You will lose some opportunities because of that, but you will leverage others so much more effectively.”
- Live with the experts. You don’t want to copy another business, but you do want to associate your brand with companies that have similar qualities and attributes. Toward that end, part of planning your branding strategy is conducting weekly, if not daily, competition research, Bolden said. “You need to understand what’s working well for the competition, where they may be falling short, and where there are opportunities to insert your brand and become relevant to your target audience,” he advised.
He also advocates the use of stakeholder mapping tools to digitally target people who can influence your business and to deepen your understanding of where customers and potential customers spend their time and who influences them. Several popular stakeholder mapping tools include Miro, Moqups, Lucidchart and Mural.
- Use the 15-minute approach. Throughout your career, you will often want to turn to others for expertise and advice. You will find people much more willing to give it if you ask for no more than 15 minutes of their time. Make it easy for them to say yes.
- Hone your elevator speech. “Being able to articulate your purpose, mission and value proposition in 30 seconds to anyone you engage with is critical to establishing your brand,” Bolden said. Business owners and company leaders can participate in Pitch University offered by Monica Motivates to master the art of sharing your unique brand.
- Network again and again. You know this is critical, but you may have to discipline yourself to do it. Building a robust professional network leads to referrals, employment opportunities, business expansion and personal growth. In many ways, going virtual has actually made networking easier. Mentors and role models who may not have agreed to meet in person are more likely to share 15 minutes to respond to a specific question via Zoom. There are also multiple networking organizations meeting online and making outstanding use of virtual breakouts.
- Leverage digital referrals. You must be active on digital platforms, such as LinkedIn, with a strong and up-to-date presence including endorsements from people who know you, your work or your business. “You must have a digital footprint today because social is where conversations and recommendations happen and where referrals come from,” Bolden said. If you don’t have the expertise to engage effectively online, invest in someone who can build what Bolden calls your “digital hustle.”
He especially endorses reverse mentoring and tapping into the younger generation to up your digital game. His own kids helped him unlock new opportunities for presenting his company’s brand on Tik Tok that ultimately led to an e-game sponsorship and significant revenue generation.
At the same time, Bolden cautions that you must continue to hone the ability to engage in person and present yourself and your business in physical spaces.
A clear and strong brand (for you and your company) increases trust, differentiates you from the competition, builds word of mouth endorsement and exposes new opportunities for growth, greater influence and accelerated progress.